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7 small cities with surprisingly big St. Patrick’s Day celebrations

Happy St Patricks Day save the date white vintage wood calendar with cupcakes on vintage style green wood background.

What’s not to like about St. Patrick’s Day? It’s a rare holiday where everyone comes together to be Irish for a day, drinking copious amounts of beer and whiskey is entirely acceptable, and the color green becomes the universal uniform. The holiday is celebrated all over the world with parades, contests, and traditional Irish foods, and the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in many US cities are definitely worth traveling for.

As you make your plans this year, consider trading the more well-known destinations like Chicago and Boston for a small city with unique festivities. To help you narrow it down, we’ve put together a list of small cities with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that never disappoint. From small-town Arkansas to the Ohio suburbs, you won’t get stuck in parade crowds too deep to even see the participants at any of these cities.  Get to know each place on our list by reading on, and find out what to expect for St. Patrick’s Day when you arrive. Just don’t forget to don the colors of the Irish flag, fill your mug with green beer, and toast to Saint Patrick when you arrive in any of these cities.

Dublin, Ohio

Dublin Fun Fact: A suburb of Ohio’s state capital of Columbus, Dublin is most well-known for its Irish pride and as a stop on the PGA Tour.

What to expect for St. Patrick’s Day: The greenest and grandest parade, the Blarney Bash, and Irish-themed contests. Since the city shares its name with Ireland’s capital, it’s only right that Dublin, Ohio take St. Patrick’s Day seriously. Dublin features a number of events leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, including the Leprechaun Hunt for kids and a Best Legs in a Kilt Contest for those feeling confident. Celebrations for the holiday are non-stop on Saturday and kick off with a pancake breakfast before the parade begins late-morning. The city’s slogan is “Irish is an attitude, ” approximately 20,000 visitors and their attitudes turn out for the parade, lining the route with chairs and blankets to watch the floats and people go by.

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah Fun Fact: As beautiful and scenic as Savannah is, this city in Georgia has been considered America’s most haunted city by many for years.  

What to expect for St. Patrick’s Day: Days of festivities and the largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the U.S. relative to the city’s population. Although only about 140,000 people live in Savannah, the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade draws a crowd of approximately 750,000 spectators to its bleacher-lined streets. Savannah’s first parade was held in 1824 and the event has only grown in size and popularity ever since. You’ll find bagpipers marching down the street in kilts, elaborately decorated floats, and tons of attendees honoring St. Patrick. Arrive in town early to see the Greening of the Fountain in historic Forsyth Park, or stick around after the parade ends to take advantage of the Entertainment Zone. This designated outdoor area requires a wristband and is the perfect place to enjoy a beer in the fresh air and listen to live bands. St. Patrick’s Day festivities last into the weekend in Savannah.

Galena, Illinois

About Galena: Situated along the Mississippi River in the upper northwest corner of Illinois, Galena was the home of Ulysses S. Grant.

What to expect for St. Patrick’s Day: A multi-day celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. While most people in the US are familiar with the St. Patrick’s Day festivities that take place just several hours east in Chicago, Galena, Illinois is also a great place to celebrate each year. Events and activities take place all throughout town…literally. Guinness flows at the local Irish pubs, streets fill with costumed leprechauns, and a local church even gets in on the action with a Celtic Drum Circle. At Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub & Grill, quench your thirst with drink specials like an Irish Margarita or a Dirty Leprechaun, groove to live Irish folk music, or let yourself be mesmerized when traditional Irish step dancers take the stage. On Saturday morning, participate in the annual Shamrock Shimmy 5K so you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day guilt-free for the rest of the weekend. The race takes runners through downtown Galena and is a great way to scout out pubs to visit throughout the rest of the day.  Late-afternoon, families crowd around the St. Patrick’s Day parade route. The parade boasts an impressive lineup of marching bands, floats, and clans in costume, and it kicks off evening festivities that can be continued at the Elks Lodge.

Eclectic Band In Green Plays In St. Patrick's Parade

Syracuse, New York

Syracuse Fun Fact: Syracuse is home to Syracuse University. Although today the school’s color is orange, originally the sports teams wore rose pink and pea green.

What to expect for St. Patrick’s Day: Two and a half hours of non-stop dancers, floats, bands, and more during the parade. The annual St. Patrick’s Parade is in its 34th year and is only gaining momentum as a fabulous, family-friendly event to experience each year. It’s entirely run by volunteers and also supports the St. Patrick Hunger Project in an effort to provide meals for those in need around the area. Thousands of people attend the parade, but if you can’t quite get yourself to leave your Syracuse vacation rental you don’t have to worry since the parade is televised locally. Other events that take place in the days and weeks leading up to the parade, include a Shamrock Run, a parade kick-off party, and a Mass.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs Fun Fact: The city sits among several natural hot springs within the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. With a small population of about 35,000 people, it is the state’s eleventh-largest city.

What to expect for St. Patrick’s Day: A totally zany atmosphere and the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade. Although the parade stretches for only about 98 feet, it lasts nearly an hour long and welcomes approximately 30,000 spectators every year. That’s almost the size of Hot Springs’ entire population! In addition to its place in the record books as the shortest parade, it’s also known for attracting a number of celebrities. Previous Grand Marshals have included Mario Lopez, Pauly Shore, and Bo Derek, and on deck this year are Kevin and Michael Bacon. Other wacky participants to watch out for include the World’s Largest Leprechaun, green marching Irish wolfhounds, the San Diego Chicken, and a troupe of Irish Elvis impersonators. If you want to do more than just watch, take part in the Romancing The Stone contest, which gives visitors the chance to see who can lay the best kiss on the Arkansas Blarney Stone.

Wilmington, North Carolina

Wilmington Fun Fact: Wilmington is a picturesque, coastal town that has been the setting for TV shows like “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill.”

What to expect for St. Patrick’s Day: An hour-long parade that loops through the streets of Wilmington, North Carolina, a lively festival with free admission at Riverfront Park, and no shortage of spirit make this small city a great choice for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Events take place rain or shine and everyone becomes a little bit Irish for the day. Local restaurants, like Paddy’s Hollow Restaurant & Pub, The Harp and Fibber McGees, serve up a variety of Irish dishes during St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Some places open up with kegs and eggs in the morning, and on the menu at most pubs are meals like corned beef and cabbage and shepherd’s pie. Fill up on food before sharing a pint of Guinness with new friends as you bar hop from pub to pub, enjoying live entertainment and endless fun.

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee Fun Fact: Bisbee is known as the Queen of the Copper Mines because nearly 25 percent of the world’s copper was produce here in its mining heyday.

What to expect for St. Patrick’s Day: Green beer, because can you really say you celebrated St. Patrick’s Day if you don’t have any? The Old Bisbee Brewing Company serves up a special St. Pat’s Emerald Ale that visitors can enjoy throughout the week. Head to the historic Brewery Gulch area to sip on one (or five) before heading to the next bar. Bisbee is known ghosts and unexplained phenomena, and if the luck of the Irish is with you, you won’t run into the ghost of N.O. Walker, a former bartender and Bisbee’s ghost of St. Patrick’s Day. Make sure to wear green to celebrate the holiday in this city because, as the saying goes, you might get pinched if you’re not dressed festively here.